10 September 2015

Food for the winter: Dehydrating

The blog silence recently hasn't been intentional, but it's actually not the kids' fault either: it's the fall's. Or maybe more accurately, the coming winter's. I know it's still summer in most of the country, but out my window?

Yellow. Yellow everywhere, especially on the ground. The rest of those leaves are going to be down before we know it, and then comes the cold. This morning was actually on the warmer side—51 degrees F when we brought Matt to work—but still chilly enough to not let us forget that "winter is on its way," as Little Bear reminds us ten times a day.

Fresh produce in Alaska in the winter is, as a general rule, tasteless and exorbitantly expensive. And with several feet of snow on the ground, you know it's not coming from anywhere remotely local! So I've been working on preserving the produce that's abundant now, hoping to really cut down on the produce I have to buy this winter.

We're borrowing a dehydrator from a friend, and I have a new favorite appliance: slice up the food, lay it out on the dehydrator trays, plug it in, and walk away. So far I've dried peaches, apples, and oregano, and they've all come out perfectly. The peaches took eight and a half hours, the oregano twelve, and the apples—miniature apples from branches grafted onto crabapple trees—were done in about four hours. We were disappointed to discover that dehydrating the peaches didn't heat them enough to denature the proteins that keep Matt from being able to eat most fruits raw, so when he learned from a coworker with the same allergy about the local orchard whose apples they could eat, we picked some up from the farmers market.

The apples are good raw, a little tangier than normal apples, but they seem sweeter dehydrated. Matt can have regular apples if they're cooked, but not fresh or dried, so these are perfect for drying to save for snacks, muesli, oatmeal, etc for him all winter.

I don't see myself dehydrating anything other than fruit and herbs, so I haven't quite decided yet whether buying one would be a worthwhile investment. I've sure been enjoying using it, though.

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